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St. Charles Health System led the pack of Central Oregon’s top employers, a position it’s held for the past two decades, according to the Economic Development for Central Oregon survey.

Economic Development for Central Oregon ranks the top employers in the region each year. The largest employers in 2021: St. Charles with 4,626 employees regionwide; Bright Wood Corp. with 1,093 employees regionwide; Sunriver Resort with 1,000; and Les Schwab Tire Centers regionwide and its headquarters with 890 employees.

“As the Central Oregon region grows, so grows the demand for health care services and that translates into jobs,” said Jenn Welander, St. Charles’s chief financial officer. “Health care is a labor-intensive business, with our caregivers’ salaries accounting for about 60% of our operating costs.”

The semi-isolation of Central Oregon sets up the region for just one hospital system, said Roger Lee, Economic Development for Central Oregon CEO. St. Charles has four hospitals each located in Bend, Redmond, Prineville and Madras.

The number of employees in Central Oregon has been tracked for the past 20 years. It’s used to paint an economic picture to lure new business to the area.

“Similarly sized regions adjacent to other metros may have multiple hospital systems serving a broader region, which has the effect of splitting that employment up over multiple employers so perhaps they don’t end up being at the No. 1 spot, but still very much being high on the list,” Lee said.

Except for the No. 1 and No. 2 places, the list shows a lot of movement up and down. For example, Les Schwab was the third-largest employer in 2019. And Lonza, the pharmaceutical research company formerly known as Bend Research, went from No. 14 in 2019 to the 10th largest employer in Central Oregon.

The list shows that many companies lost employees over the past year due to shutdowns from efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

One example is Rosendin Electric in Redmond, it went from the eighth largest employer in 2019 to the 16th.

As the risk of spreading COVID-19 decreased, more businesses were able to open and add employees in Central Oregon, according to Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist’s February employment report. Around 7 out of every 10 jobs lost during the initial COVID-19 shock were added back across the region in February, Runberg reported.

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